I first encountered Brene Brown three or four years ago, in her TED talk, and thought ‘That chick is cool, I’ve got to read her book’.
So I put it on my towering list of Books To Get To.
And it stayed there. For ages.
By the time I finally got to it, after discovering that her books are so wildly popular that even the older ones have a several month wait time at my library, I just ordered everything of hers that my library had, figuring I’d read them as they came in.
I’m not through all of them yet, but so far my conclusion is: you can’t go wrong reading Brene Brown.
I love her funny, matter of fact style; her books are like my favourite conversations with good intelligent friends. She’s also a talented and dedicated researcher whose work is my favourite kind: practical and useful for direct improvement of lives. And she writes about freedom, and living abundantly, some of my favourite topics.
She calls it Wholehearted Living.
The book I really fell in love with is a fairly small thing called The Gifts of Imperfection, which deals with the main things that free people to live abundantly.
The necessary ingredients she found, across all walks of life and situations, were courage, compassion, and connection.
Now, if those sound too out there to make a real difference, or too unattainable to make any difference for you, never fear: she discusses that in the book. I won’t detail it here, but I’ll mention she’s convincing.
The Gifts of Imperfection is organised into tiny chapters most of which are the Guideposts. The first few chapters explain how she came to the conclusions she has about how to live wholeheartedly and the things that get in the way … essentially why each of the Guideposts she’s going to talk about are irrelevant to the process of living Whole.
And she has a section in the back about the deep dark research process just in case you happen to be really hipped on qualitative research and need to know for sure where she got her facts.
The Guideposts are:
- Cultivating Authenticity: letting go of what people think.
- Cultivating Self-Compassion: letting go of perfection.
- Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
- Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
- Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: letting go of the need for certainty.
- Cultivating Creativity: letting go of comparison.
- Cultivating Play and Rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
- Cultivating Calm and Stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
- Cultivating Meaningful Work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
- Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”.
If those things sound exciting, or just ‘right’ and logical to you, you’ll love this book.
And even if those things strike terror into your heart you might still like the book. She’s really good about recognising that this stuff doesn’t always come naturally. She uses a lot of examples from her own life and from her work to show how you can get past the terror and actually succeed.
In fact, when she first came to the conclusions detailed in this book, rather than setting out to transform her life, she abandonded the work and went into a tailspin.
This is one of those areas of her being very real that I just adore. I love the way she writes about her little personal life crisis: “the 2008
Breakdown Spiritual Awakening”. That isn’t a correction, or a formatting error, that’s how she writes it throughout the whole book!
Gives me some hope that one day I’ll look back on the Lifewreck of 2014 and see strikethrough and breakthrough instead of chaos! 🙂
And she eventually got back on course and wrote this book, so it all worked out.
Each Guidepost also has a little DIGging deeper section at the end that provides practical activities for testing out the concept.
Dr. Brown has written a great deal about her struggles with worthiness, and that is a big part of this book too.
By the grace of God and some splendid parents I haven’t struggled a lot with the problem of worthiness, so I wondered whether this would be at all useful for me. I feared yet another ‘stop hating yourself’ book.
But no. Wholehearted living, not surprisingly, is holistic. So while the shame threads run clearly throughout the book, there are many, many, threads involved in a life of courage, compassion, and connection, and I found more than enough useful lessons to cover my own interests, concerns, and struggles too!
You can find out about ALL of Brene Brown’s work at http://brenebrown.com